Ask any startup what their biggest challenges are and “demand generation” will probably make the list. It’s not just a new company problem, though. Established organizations also need to answer the question, “how do we get people to care about us?”
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about demand generation, from its definition to the tactics companies use to create and measure it.
What is Demand Generation Marketing?
Let’s start with a definition, just to make sure we’re on the same page:
Demand generation is a holistic marketing and sales approach that aims to build interest in a product or service, educate potential customers on its benefits, nurture them until they’re ready to buy, and, ultimately, convince them to make a purchase.
The field of demand generation spans many different disciplines including content creation, paid advertising, conversion techniques, and customer success strategies.
Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation
Demand generation vs. lead generation… What’s the difference? While these two terms are often used interchangeably, the truth is they’re *not* the same. Understanding the differences between them is key to building a successful demand generation strategy.
As discussed above, demand generation is a full marketing and sales framework that guides prospects from complete strangers to paying customers. In other words, it creates demand for a product, then works to turn said demand into company revenue.
Lead generation, on the other hand, is the practice of identifying potential customers and acquiring their contact information so that they can be marketed and sold to in the future.
So the main difference between demand generation and lead generation is that lead gen is just one component of demand gen. Is it important? Absolutely! But without a complete demand generation strategy in place, it’s more difficult to convert leads into paying customers.
Make sense? Cool. Now if we just knew how to generate demand for a product of service…
How Do You Create Demand Generation?
Or, put another way, “What are demand generation activities?” Great questions! In this section we’ll outline how you can create demand for your products and/or services using specific, proven activities. Let’s take a look…
1. Clarify Your Goals
As with most things in the world of business, a successful demand generation strategy should start with clear goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve? Make sure every goal you set is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
- Specific: Be as specific as possible about what you’re trying to do. You don’t want to “Improve sales,” you want to “Boost sales of Product X by 17% in Q1 of this year.”
- Measurable: Make sure you’ve chosen specific metrics to measure while working towards your goals. That way you can track progress and make needed adjustments.
- Attainable: We’d all love to “boost sales by 1,000%”. But for most companies, that’s not realistic. Only set goals you and your team are actually equipped to achieve.
- Relevant: When choosing your goals, stick to ones that align with overall company objectives. You don’t want to be at cross purposes with other departments.
- Time-Based: Lastly, ensure every objective you put in place has a practical deadline. This will make your chances of accomplishing much higher.
We also suggest setting milestones for each goal, AKA short-term objectives you can focus on to help keep you inspired while working towards bigger aims.
The last thing we’ll say in regard to demand generation goals is that they should be set and worked on by both marketing and sales teams. This will ensure alignment between departments and help your company avoid erroneous and unproductive aims.
2. Define Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach with your demand generation strategy? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find success.
You need to know exactly who your ideal customers are, their goals, the challenges they face on a regular basis, and where they hang out online. That way you can create content and messaging that resonates with them.
If you’re completely lost when it comes to defining your audience — either because you’re a brand new start up or you’ve just never taken the time to assess your target market — don’t worry. All you have to do is study the data and use it to build buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a fictional character that’s created to represent a subset of real-world consumers. Ideally, the buyer personas you create will have a gender, age (a range is fine), occupation, income level, motivations, goals, challenges, and interests.
Here’s a really good example:
To find the kind of information shown above, dig into your current customer data, which can be found in website and social media analytics dashboards and by talking to experienced sales reps and customer success professionals.
For companies without a well of data to mine, we suggest researching your industry as a whole by reading websites, engaging in forums, and viewing social media content. While this kind of information won’t be as helpful as your own data, it’s still valuable.
3. Map the Customer Journey
At this point you should have clear goals and a well-defined audience. Now it’s time to map your customer journey. Ask yourself, “what’s the logical path my prospects will take from complete stranger to paying customer?” This journey is vitally important to demand gen!
Take a look at the graphic from Resourceful Selling below. It does a great job of illustrating typical journey stages, as well as desired customer actions and content ideas for each.
The first funnel shows the general stages that each lead goes through on their journey from stranger to customer. The second shows the actions each lead needs to take to move from one stage to the next. And the third funnel shows various marketing and sales materials you can use at each stage to keep prospects flowing through and revenue coming in.
We’ll talk more about content types in the next section. But before we get there, take a look at your own funnel and answer these four questions:
- What action does a lead need to take to move to another stage in the funnel?
- What qualities do I want my leads to possess to move to subsequent funnel stages?
- What actions does a lead need to take to be removed from my funnel altogether?
- What conversion rate do I hope to achieve for each funnel stage?
By answering these four questions, you’ll be able to map a customer journey that works for your company’s unique demand generation strategy.
4. Create Your Content
Now that your customer journey is mapped out, you need to create (or assign) content to each stage of your funnel. The tactics below have been separated into suggested stages. But that’s all they are: suggestions. Feel free to add content as you see fit.
Top of the Funnel Content
Content at this stage of the funnel should be designed to attract your ideal audience and make them interested to learn more about your offerings. It also needs to be highly engaging, which is why we always recommend including visual elements.
- Paid Advertising: From Facebook ads to Google Adword campaigns, paid advertising can expose your brand to a lot of potential customers. Just make sure you have a solid strategy in place and keep an eye on ROI so you don’t lose money.
- Blogging: Long-form blog articles (like this post!) are a great way to improve your company’s SEO efforts, build a relationship with your target audience, and educate them on the latest happenings and inner-workings of your industry.
- Social Media: In all likelihood, your ideal customers spend a lot of time on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Meet them there! Just remember, social media should be a conversation, not a one-way announcement platform for your company.
- Video Content: Video is one of the most engaging marketing platforms. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy to use and affordable tools to help you capture quality footage. For example, Zight (formerly CloudApp) will allow you to quickly record your screen, free of charge!
Remember, your audience might not even know they have a problem at this stage of the funnel. If they do, they certainly don’t know how to solve it yet. Make sure your top of the funnel content is highly educational and *not* overly sales focused.
Middle of the Funnel Content
Once your prospects reach the middle of your funnel, they understand they have a problem and know there are solutions available to help them. Your content at this stage should work to build relationships and begin to explain why your company’s solution is the best option.
- Email Marketing: It’s been around for over four decades, but email marketing is still one of the best ways to nurture leads. Use this channel to keep your company top of mind, promote specific pieces of content, and deliver targeted offers.
- Downloadables: A downloadable is any piece of content that requires an email address and/or some other contact details to access. eBooks, white papers, guides, and even some high-end webinars fall into this category.
Middle of the funnel content should be highly educational, persuasive, and targeted directly at potential customers in this specific stage of the buyer’s journey.
Bottom of the Funnel Content
Customers at the bottom of the funnel are ready to buy. They just need one last push to get them over the edge. This is usually done via current customer review and testimonials, and content that expounds upon the features of a particular product or service.
- In-Depth Research: Take time to dig into customer data to see how your offerings help them. Or do an honest comparison of your’s and a competitor’s tool. Then publish the results so that almost-buyers have the details they need to complete a purchase.
- Case Studies: Case studies, AKA customer success stories, show potential buyers what others have achieved with a specific product. They should be very inspirational. If possible, include screenshots of customers using your tool so that its value is clear.
Do your best to ensure your bottom of the funnel content is concise, promotional (but not at the expense of bashing your competitors), and data driven. Your customers want the facts and they want them quickly when they reach this stage.
How Do You Measure Demand Generation?
You’ve created a demand generation strategy, complete with buyer personas, a customer journey map, and relevant content for each stage of your funnel. Congratulations, you’ve come a long way! But we’re not done yet…
How do you know your strategy is effective and helping you achieve the goals we talked about earlier? You learn to measure your demand generation efforts. Here’s how:
1. Define Your Metrics
First things first, decide which demand generation metrics you’ll track. The ones you choose should correlate with the goals you’re trying to achieve.
For example, if one of your goals is to increase your conversion rate from stage one to stage two, you might want to track lead magnet downloads. If you want to increase brand awareness, website traffic could be a KPI worth monitoring.
2. Track Metrics Over Time
Have you chosen a few important metrics? Great, start tracking them. Doing so will help you better understand your audience and how to adjust your strategy to better meet their needs.
Just remember to give yourself time. You need to acquire a bit of data before you make any drastic changes. That way you know you’re reacting to solid trends and not just momentary blips on an analytics dashboard.
3. Adjust as Needed
Finally, take what your data tells you and act on it. There’s no point in tracking downloads, website traffic, conversion rates, or anything else if you don’t use the information to improve your business. Look for patterns, make adjustments, repeat.
Pro Tip: Use a tool like Zight (formerly CloudApp) to make GIFs of your analytics. That way you can easily share them with colleagues and enhance understanding across your organization.
Demand generation is an important marketing and sales approach. By educating your target audience on the problems they have, how to solve them, and why your company’s products and/or services are essential to their success, you’ll boost sales. You’ll also improve brand authority, develop deeper blonds with your customers, and score more referrals.
Follow the steps we outlined above and you’ll be able to create and distribute the right content at the right time and guide your prospects through the sales funnel.